Janine Allen

The Incarnation of the Puti (Anthracite, hematite, red and yellow oxide and enamel on board, 220 x 250 cm)

The Incarnation of the Puti (Anthracite, hematite, red and yellow oxide and enamel on board, 220 x 250 cm)

Artist's Statement

The Incarnation of the Puti is a multimedia work that unravels painting processes and the dialectic I perceive in the history of painting. On the one side I see idealistically beautiful and immortalised painted images; on the other hand I see erosive painted images of a primal nature. My interest is in natural paint boxes, making paint and crushing pigment in the ‘Renaissance way’. These applications have become redundant in contemporary painting. I have experienced a withdrawal from the past. Alienation and disembodiment have taken place in the spiritual disembodiment between painter and painting. Incarnation of the Puti evolutionises these processes and visually represents a schizophrenic painting history.

The interactive installation, The Island, is inspired by the UFS/Reitz hostel race discrimination incident that depicted white male students’ discrimination against older black cleaners in a hostel initiation ‘ritual’. The incident has profound implications for most South African universities, as many are now labelled as islands of racism. Its after-effects have caused immense anger amongst UFS students and staff members, including myself. While interviewing Matsepe Tsoai, one of the students that released the video to the media, I became more attentive to the way in which most black South African communities see older women as mothers and the extent of insult this incident has created. With this in mind, I have painted my son Ethan lying possessively, but also helplessly, in the arms of his nanny Liesbeth. The project deals with the complexities associated with historically rooted cross-cultural interactions that surround surrogate mother figure and child, or the slave-master relationship. Phosphor paint, developed by the head of the UFS physics department, Prof Hendrik Swart, has been applied on the top and inside of the painting and on the floor space. This deactivates the studio lights and reveals a spatial image painted in fluorescent, light activating phosphor. Interacting with the image enables a transmutation process between viewer, image and underlying issues, hopefully enabling a sense of restorative justice. 

Artist's Biography

Born: Port Elizabeth, 1971. Lives and works in Bloemfontein. Received her MFA from the University of the Free State. Major exhibitions: ABSA Gallery, Johannesburg; Ostrobithnian Museum, Vaasa, Finland; KZNSA Gallery, Durban. Awards and scholarships: UNESCO Aschberg Residency, Sacatar Foundation.